Cyclist Manifesto…

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008 | Cycling

…in which I talk about myself as non-motorized traffic.

I love riding my bike to and from work. I really love it. I can’t say that I’ve regretted it even once. Not on any hill that’s tough to climb, not on any of these cold mornings, not once while sitting in my office dripping sweat as I cool down from my ride in. In fact, just having my bike on campus to run errands and travel between buildings is simply perfect. It now takes me half the time to get from one building to another to go and fix computers (now if all the buildings we have computers in had bike racks, things would be even better).

Drivers need to realize, however, that I am not impeding traffic. I am traffic. I’ve actually been honestly surprised by the fact that in the past six weeks, I’ve only been yelled at once. Yesterday, was the first time someone was actually upset with the fact that I was riding in the road, rather than in the gutter or on the sidewalk. Oddly enough, it was on the same stretch of road that I got yelled at last time.

As it was, I was on Locust (a one-way, two-lane street) approaching University (a four-lane highway). There is a nice, wide, shoulder all the way down Locust which I take advantage of as much as I can, though occasionally there is a car parked in the shoulder and I have to shift into the right lane to get around it. However, as you encroach upon University, there is a right-turn only lane added, which eliminates the shoulder. As a result, I always look for an opening to move into the right-most non-turn-only lane because I need to cross over University and continue on Locust. I try to wait as long as possible, but traffic can be pretty bad on Locust around 5:30 so I will often pull out a little early to make sure I’m not stuck in the right-turn only lane. There is no clear ruling that I can see for this action in the Texas Bicycle Laws, but I would argue that it is my prerogative to take the lane, since, in my opinion, it would be “less legal” to continue straight from the right-turn only lane.

So, with all that in mind, when I took the lane, I checked my mirror (I have an awesome rear view mirror now, which makes me feel oh so much safer and more responsible as a rider) and moved into the lane. There was no-one in the lane and no-one with a blinker indicating that they were planning on moving into the lane, so it was all clear. As soon as I moved into the lane, though, some jughead in a massive white pickup truck honks at me and shouts something, waving his arm as if to say I should be on the shoulder or the sidewalk (have you ever had someone yell at you while they pass you in their car, its completely unintelligible). I’m not entirely sure why he was upset, he even turned left at the light, so I was never obstructing him, but he was obviously disgruntled by my presence in the street.

People like him need to realize a few things about my choice to ride a bike.

  • I have every legal right to be on the road as any other motorized vehicle. While the laws encourage me from riding as close to the curb as possible, they do not prevent me from riding in the lane when it is necessary. The sidewalks, in my opinion, are right out. I would be more of a hazard to a pedestrian than an automobile. Additionally, sidewalks often end unexpectedly… or have a tree growing out of them.
  • While I may slow down traffic on rare occasions, for the most part I am taking smaller, less utilized roads and staying out of the way on major highways. I’m actually reducing traffic in the places where it matters most.
  • I am reducing carbon emissions. Most drivers may not even think about this, directly, but believe me, its a good thing.
  • By not buying gas (I’ve filled my tank once in two months, and I’m still at 3/4 of a tank, presently), I’m actually combating the rising gas prices. All those stupid “gas-outs” and crap, they do nothing. There is only one way to reduce the cost of gas and that is to use less of it. So yeah, this one is for you, the one driving all by yourself in the giant six person SUV. For every million gallons of gas it takes you to drive to work everyday, it takes me none.

There are other reasons, personal reasons, why I ride a bike but the ones above are the reasons that affect other people. There may even be more that effect other people, but I can’t think of them at present. Regardless of my motivation, I love riding my bike, and I’m allowed to ride it in the manner which I do. I obey traffic laws, I stop at traffic lights and stop signs. I signal when I turn or change lanes and I obey the speed limit when it is possible for me to exceed it. I am allowed to ride my bike on the road, and I will do so in the manner that I see fit. This is my manifesto, as a cyclist. I don’t impede traffic, I am traffic.

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